Obama Colorado visit draws polite protest crowd
Associated Press Writer
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Protesters in Colorado brought fiery signs but stayed mostly subdued Saturday as President Barack Obama headed to Grand Junction to sell a health care overhaul that has sparked heated outbursts elsewhere.
One protester, a nurse in her 70s, said she wanted to counter recent claims from the left that health care protesters are combative.
“This is not to cause trouble. This is not staged,” said Mary Lu Graham. “We are just very, very concerned about this.”
Several hundred people wearing red, white and blue gathered Saturday morning at a city park a few hours before Obama was to arrive from Yellowstone National Park and a town hall meeting in Montana.
Democrats who support the proposed overhaul rallied, too.
A few blocks from the Grand Junction high school, where Saturday’s meeting was to be held, about 200 supporters gathered on an empty dirt lot. About 30 opponents were across the street, but the two sides largely ignored each other.
“I just want to show my support for what the president’s doing,” said Elizabeth Birmingham, 62, a real estate broker who sat at a corner outside the school holding a sign welcoming Obama.
The earlier opposition rally was smaller than organizers hoped, and those gathered were generally quiet while listening to a series of speakers talk about their opposition to Obama’s plan.
Hilt Anderson, 73, a retired electrician, came to listen to opponents of health care reform. Like most of the morning’s protesters, he had no plans to attend Obama’s town hall at a Grand Junction high school Saturday evening, though some planned to picket outside the meeting.
Anderson, a Medicare patient, said he wanted to show support for the current health care system.
“I think a lot of people did a lot of work giving us what we got,” he said.
For many at the rally, health care was just one of the topics that brought them out.
“The bigger issue besides just health care is distrust of the federal government,” said Karen Culp, a Grand Junction nurse who spoke at the rally, which was organized by a local conservative group and the Colorado chapter of the group Americans for Prosperity.
One sign called for more help to the oil and gas industry, a major employer in the region. Another sign read, “Chicago THUGS Run DC,” while another called Obama a “Lying, Cheating Socialist.”
“Everything this new government is trying to pass, just everything is scary,” said Sarah Myers, 26, a Fruita athletic trainer who carried a sign calling for Obama’s impeachment.
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